Bias in the Coaches Poll? I’m shocked, shocked.

Ed Gunther is my hero.  Fresh off of counting all of the first place ballots cast in the AP and Coaches Poll during the BCS era, he’s now turned his attention to a huge issue and turned in a monster of a report.

Here’s what he’s chosen to dig his teeth into.

We’re going to be asking (and answering) two main questions here: first,
are there any constants in how far teams drop in the polls after a loss?
And second,
have the polls shown any biases for or against teams or conferences?

Like I said, that’s quite the task.  And he does a great job with it.  Take some time to read through it (and it will take some time, that’s for sure).  I just want to note this conclusion he reaches:

… Sure, most non-BCS teams have a legitimate complaint that the polls never give them enough respect in the preseason rankings. But does that bias carry over once teams start losing? In the AP, that’s a resounding no – 11 of the 19 non-BCS teams actually have a zero or positive average in the AP (meaning they dropped less spots than the average). That’s a much better percentage of teams than the BCS conferences where only 29 of 63 teams have a positive average. Air Force and Colorado State are in the Top 5 of teams who get a break, dropping over 2 spots less than the average for comparable teams when they lose. So if anything, the AP voters make up for their preseaon (sic) apprehension of non-BCS teams by dropping them less than BCS teams when they inevitably lose.

But the Coaches poll is a different story. Only 5 of the 18 non-BCS teams have a positive average, meaning that the overwhelming majority of non-BCS teams drop further in the Coaches poll after a loss than the average team does. (It’s true that in general, the Coaches drop teams further for a loss than the AP, but not by that much – it’s a difference of 0.2 spots.) In fact, the Coaches dropped non-BCS teams more than the average in nearly 2/3’s of their losses. Looking at it one final way, all of the BCS teams combine for the average 0.0 in the Coaches poll – non-BCS teams combine for a -1.6 average, losing a spot and a half more per game than BCS teams. Remind me again why keeping their ballots secret is a good thing?

It seems to me that instead of lobbying Congress and pitching new playoff proposals, the Mountain West and the other non-BCS conferences ought to be raising holy hell about this.



Filed under Stats Geek!

4 responses to “Bias in the Coaches Poll? I’m shocked, shocked.

  1. Senator, I’m glad you brought up this subject. I’ve long been of the opinion that until you remove the Coaches Poll from the process, the national title process is a sham. For one thing, coaches have no way of viewing half the games we do as fans considering they usually spend 10-12 hours every Saturday dealing with their own games.

    Secondly, coaches will always be biased one way or the other. Whether it be propping up their own team (hello, 2007), or not voting for a team based on personal bias (you can’t tell me Steve Spurrier would love nothing more than to screw UGA or FSU if he had the chance to keep them out of a title game by voting them 3 rather than 1 or 2), there is an inherent bias.

    I really think for whatever system comes about after the current contracts expire, the powers to be need to take a long, hard look at eliminating the Coaches Poll. Especially if they aren’t willing to even make one vote public.


    • In response, insert shameless plug here. 😉


      • Mike In Valdosta

        And the East German judge hands out a six when all other judges awarded nines… I am shocked.

        Now, onto the beating of a dead horse:

        Judging, or polling if you prefer, is always going to be a problem. It allows provincial journalist, coaches and ADs to accomplish with pen what their teams could not on the field.

        As for the Mumme poll, which I find fascinating and great fun, will only make it more fanatical.

        Reduce the amount of D1 teams to a reasonable number of teams AND conferences. Have the conference champs, which with the exception of the Big12 earned their championship on the field, decide things with their play.


    • Bulldog Bry

      Auditdawg, don’t forget the monetary bias – which works in reverse. Sure, Meyer may not pee on Richt if he were on fire, but if Meyer wants to see a slice of that BCS money (which is spread to all SEC members), doesn’t he have an incentive to vote Georgia higher and, say, Notre Dame lower? After all, Notre Dame’s only shot at a BCS game is based on where they rank.
      And maybe the Gators are mediocre one year (I know, I know, just go with it…..), but Dan Mullen wants to pull a Spurrier and give props to the Gators by ranking them higher than he should. He has a vested monetary interest in doing so. Better to keep the cash at home than to allow, say, Iowa to get that same bowl pay out.

      Coaches poll = bad juju